Go and Do Likewise
Go and Do Likwise
In our passage from Luke this morning which features the parable of the Good Samaritan we find Jesus using an outsider, someone who was not considered a neighbour, to demonstrate how a neighbour should act.
Scripture: Luke 10: 25-37
Go and do likewise.
Go and do what?
Go and show mercy.
It’s the one who showed mercy who understands God’s heart.
A few weeks ago I let you know about an Open Letter that St. Andrew’s signed asking that those who are homeless within our community be left alone to shelter in place. This request was made because there are not enough shelter beds in our community for the amount of people who are homeless. That until such time as more shelter space is made available or some other form of housing be provided that people be left to shelter in place.
The letter generated some public support. A general meeting was held that was well attended by many people within the community. From that meeting a delegation went to Cobourg Council asking them to suspend the bylaw that forces individuals to move along. This past Monday Council held a special session to consider this request and I’m not sure much has really changed.
I would be lying to you if I said I was not terribly disappointed in the situation. The result is a continuation of the status quo, and I am struggling to see where the mercy is.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is about mercy. Pure and simple, mercy is the theme. The Torah expert is trying to trap Jesus. He knows the answer to the question, and it has been answered correctly. However, by asking “Who is my neighbour” the Torah expert is hoping to trap Jesus into a message of exclusion. That somehow the definition of neighbour will be narrowed. It’s much easier to love your neighbour if the definition of neighbour fits your own self-identification. The smaller your circle, the easier it is to be exclusive.
Jesus denies the Torah expert this by widening the circle and the definition of neighbour in a dramatic way. By telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus widens the definition of neighbour to include a natural enemy and outsider.
Jeannine Brown puts it this way, “Jesus’ answer to this question comes in a parable about a Samaritan who rescues a Jewish man who had been attacked, robbed, and left for dead (10:30). The contrast to this Samaritan is provided by a priest and Levite, who both see the desperate man but “passed by on the other side” (10:31-32). At this point, Luke’s audience, as well as Jesus’ listeners, would have begun to feel the surprise of the story. The priest and Levite are the anticipated “good guys” of the story, while a Samaritan (10:33) would hardly be expected to stop and help a Jewish person in trouble given past conflicts between their peoples (see also John 4:9).” (Jeannine Brown – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-15-3/commentary-on-luke-1025-37-5)
The question for us is do we represent the Priest and the Levite or the Samaritan? It is the Samaritan who is the outsider in the story, not generally welcomed and shunned. Yet the Samaritan provides the counter point.
The Samaritan takes some tangible actions towards the injured individual. The wounds are cared for, they are brought to shelter, and the continued care is paid for. Jesus is telling those present that these very real, very substantial actions are what neighbours do for one another. This takes the question of the Torah expert, “Who is my neighbour” and turns it on its head. Instead of answering the question Jesus asks a different one: “Which of these three acted as a neighbour?” To which the response is, “The one who showed mercy.”
As followers of Jesus, we are called to play the role of neighbour to others. This means showing mercy and following not in the example of the Torah expert, but of the Samaritan. Care and compassion for the marginalized is a theme in Luke’s gospel. There is an ethical assumption on Luke’s part that this is how followers of Jesus will behave.
Being a follower of Jesus, as we read it in Luke’s gospel, is about more than being saved. It is about more than being born again. It is about more than inheriting eternal life. Luke’s portrayal of Jesus tells us that the very tangible things we do matter. There is a discourse of mercy and grace that runs its way through Luke’s gospel. We need to pay attention to that.
What is interesting to note is that the one who offered mercy is themself an outsider. The Samaritan does not belong and would not be welcomed within the Jewish community. It’s important to remember that Luke is writing his account of Jesus for a Greek patron, a Gentile. Illustrating the act of mercy through the lens of the Samaritan expands the reach and welcome of the gospel. All are welcome. All can receive this grace. All may benefit from this mercy.
God is interested in restoration. Jesus came to reform Judaism and restore the moral compass of the people. To remind them that laws and strict legal codes should not get in the way of how people are treated. The outpouring of mercy demonstrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan has higher importance than the desire to define who my neighbour is. The parable insists that we live out our identity as children of God by demonstrating equal measures of mercy.
The question that is posed back on the audience that day by Jesus is this: Will you act as the Priest and the Levite did or will you act as the Samaritan? That would have been a hard question for them to answer. Regrettably it hasn’t gotten any easier. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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